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My 4th of July and the Nine Days

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

Thank God I had a wonderful 4th of July. However, as most days it was not without it’s challenges. My 5 year-old son, grappling with the ideas of love, consequences of actions and parental disapproval, asks me if I will still love him if he performs a particular forbidden action – one which he knows has resulted in undesired consequences for him in the past and parental disapproval. We are about to take him to the beach to try out his new kiddies surfboard and my son discovers a fledgling on the front lawn that has been cast from his nest. The 5 year old suggests we look online for the appropriate course of action. We follow his sound advice and embark on a lengthy procedure to return this little bird to its nest. My wife held the ladder steady while I carefully returned the bird to its nest. It was a wonderful family experience. We then proceeded to the beach where we had a wonderful time in the surf.

Friends, Sunday night ushers in the first day of the Hebrew month of Av and the beginning of a period of mourning culminating with the fast of Tisha Be’av – the 9th day of Av. Typically this time period is associated with feelings of sadness and pain. Pain over the destruction of the first and second temples, pain at two millennia of expulsions, exiles, blood libels, pogroms and more recently, the holocaust. This agonizing reality is expressed in Jewish Law, which mandates modes of mourning for this time period such as not eating meat except on Shabbat and culminates in a twenty-four hour fast on the Day of Tisha Be’av.

There is however an unexpected aspect of Jewish law which is rather perplexing. The general law is that on joyous days one omits certain solemn sections from the regular daily prayers such as Tachanun, Tziduk Hadin etc. This is why these prayers are not said on Purim, Chanukah and the like. The code of Jewish law states that on Tisha Be’av one should not recite Tachanun because the following verse in the book of lamentations refers to Tisha Be’av as a FESTIVAL: “…He called a festival upon me to crush my young men….” This law is extremely perplexing and seems to be completely out of character with the nature of the day. How can Tisha Be’av possibly be perceived as festive?

Returning to my 4th of July experience I say to my son – son I disapprove and get upset when your behavior is inappropriate and make sure that you experience painful consequences for your behavior because I love you and care deeply for you. My disapproval and is not a sign of my withdrawing love, but rather a consequence of my deep love for you. In fact it pains me to see him miserable and unhappy and my love and compassion pours out to him when he is not able to be joyous as a result of his actions. The Slonimer Rabbe explains that Tisha Be’av should be seen in a similar light. There is no greater outpouring of love form a parent to a child them when that parent is forced to inflict pain on their child for the child’s very survival.

This is the dual nature of Tisha Be’av. It is a time of mourning the tragedies and consequences of our negativity that have befallen us. Yet it is a time when the mature child realizes that our father in heaven loves us. He is not a non-caring apathetic parent but one who loves us and is pained by our suffering. This is the festive nature of Tisha Be’av. Apathy is the greatest rejection a child can receive. We do not have an apathetic father in heaven.

Friends, we mourn not for the destruction of a building but out of longing for the proverbial special moments with our father in heaven. Indeed this month is not called Av for naught – it is the time that really testifies to our eternal connection to our father in heaven. Our caring father has lovingly given us painful consequences and this is what testifies to his great love for us. May our temple be rebuilt and may we share the ‘wonderful beach moments’ of connection with our Father in heaven soon in our days.